And this is how I ended two month and a half of yoga training at the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai, with the one month Advanced Teachers Training Course (ATTC). I loved it! The content of the course was exactly what I like, the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai is beautiful and with a great atmosphere, but one of the most important thing is the wonderful people that I met. You might arrive alone to one of this trainings but you never leave without making a few good friends, and of the best kind, spiritual friends!
The Sivananda Yoga Advanced Teachers Training Course Video
I started the Advanced Teachers Training Course right after the Sadhana Intensive Course, so I actually didn't have much free time in between. Maybe that was a good thing to help me keep focus. And right after the Advanced Teachers Training Course was over I took a night bus to Kovalam Beach with my friends to have a nice break after one month of intensive yoga training. Ok ok, is not like we had a stressful life at the ashram but ashram life for the ATTC students is a bit intense. You wake up at 4.30 am, start the program at 5am and go to bed around at 10 pm. There is not much free time during the day to do your own things and, although the food is delicious, sometimes you just want to eat something different. Four days at the beach was more than enough to recharge my batteries before coming back to the ashram.
Back to the ashram? Yes, that's right. Actually my training is not over yet. although I completed the main courses I decided to stay at the ashram for one more month as a Karma Yogi (a volunteer), helping with any work that needs to be done and to have the opportunity to help with the yoga classes and to eventually, and I hope very soon, start teaching myself. So at the moment I am a staff member and I'm really enjoying it, it was an excellent decision to stay here.
About the Sivananda Yoga Advanced Teachers Training Course
Although the training is called Advanced Teachers Training Course to me it felt more like a Vedanta Course with intensive yoga practice included, and that was perfectly fine with me cause I love Vedanta Philosophy. During the Teachers Training Course (TTC) we learned about so many different topics related to yoga philosophy, but none of them was covered in depth. During the ATTC the focus was mainly on Vedanta Philosophy, Vedanta Meditations and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. We also have anatomy classes focused on the Nervous System and Endocrine Systems.
The Asana (physical postures) classes were mainly focus on our own practice, to gain more flexibility, control, relaxation and concentration but there was very little discussed about how to teach and this is something that I missed. During the TTC we had twice a teaching rehearsal were we were divided in groups and had to teach a complete class to the other members of the group. I was hoping to do the same kind of practice during the ATTC but we only had two or three classes were we talk about how to make corrections. This doesn't mean that the training was poor or bad, but perhaps the objective should be explained clearly in the website.
I thought the training would feel more intense compared to the TTC, specially because we wake up one hour early to do pranayamas, but that was not the case. I actually felt very calm and relaxed, perhaps because I came straight from the Sadhana Itensive.
The Daily Schedule for the ATTC
04.30 wake up (no bell)
05.00 to 06.00 Pranayamas
06.00 to 07.30 Satsang: Silent meditation, chanting and talk
08.00 to 09.00 Asana Class
09.15 to 10.00 Anatomy Class
10.00 Breakfast (more like a lunch)
10.45 to 11.45 Karma Yoga
12.00 to 13.00 Lecture (Yoga Sutras or Sanskrit Class)
14.00 to 15.30 Main Lecture (Vedanta Phylosofie)
16.00 to 17.45 Asana Class
About the Sivanda Ashram in Madurai
Without hesitation I can tell that I loved the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai and I would recommend to anybody coming to India and interested in Yoga to stay at this ashram for at least one week. For some people it can even be one of the best experiences of their journey to India. The location is beautiful, it is like in the middle of a forest with beautiful landscapes in any direction that you look at. The ashram feels very peaceful and quiet. There is a road next to it but luckily there is not much traffic so it is not really a problem.
I never felt really comfortable at the Neyyar Dam Ashram, even though is just next to the Neyyar Dam Sanctuary with its beautiful lake that we visited during the morning meditation walks. I just felt like if there was a strange vibe in the Ashram, perhaps it's just a Feng Shui thing :-) Everybody that I talked with and that have visited both ashrams prefer the Madurai Ashram, even the Yoga Vacationers (regular travelers that come for the open yoga classes) seems to like it more. While in Neyyar Dam I would say that they stay in average 4 days in Madurai they stay in average two weeks (that's just my impression). Perhaps it is because the Madurai Ashram is smaller and there are less people. During my TTC we were 140 in Neyyar Dam and I heard that some times there can be even more that 200 people! and plus the yoga vacationers the total number of people can reach to 500.
The staff at the Madurai Ashram is great, specially now that I am a staff member :-P (just kidding). There is nobody coming in the morning and poke your back to wake you up for the satsanga, I hated when they do that in Neyyar Dam, and there is no need for that at all, everybody feel so comfortable and enjoy the place that they will wake up by themselves. Of course, this can change since most of the staff are just volunteers that stay for a few months, but since I arrived here in January 4 2011 all the staff that I met have been very friendly and reachable.
I also prefer the meditations here, there is a better balance between the meditations and the chantings during the satsangas. The meditation usually last between 20 and 30 minutes and in rare occasions they are reduced to accommodate something new in the program.
The men's permanent dorm is very comfortable. It has about 20 beds, it is very clean and there are some desks with chairs that are share between 4 people, but that's not a problem at all, there are many places around the ashram where to sit and study, do homework or just use your computer. There are also some cupboard to store your things and put a lock if you want to. The temporary dorm is a lot simpler, they call it the "exotic" dorm. It is like a big hut with lots of beds spread around the place. I'm a bit spoiled so I went for the permanent dorm but my friends who stay at the temporary dorm were pretty satisfied. I guess is similar with the women's dorms.
The disadvantage compared to the Neyyar Dam Ashram is that there are no nice beaches nearby where to go during the days off. On Fridays, at the Neyyar Dam Ashram everybody would go either to Kovalam or Varkala Beach. In Madurai there are not many places were to go, the city center is kind of hectic and besides visiting a few temples there is not much to do.
Services offered by the ashram
- Internet: During limited hours but most of the times the internet connection didn't work or it was way to slow. Most people would wait until Friday to be able to go to the city and use the internet.
- Boutique: With Sivananda yoga books, cds, dvds, yoga mats, soap, mosquito repellent, etc etc.
- Health Hut: Different fruit juices, milkshakes or fruit salads and the famous "hot lemon ginger honey" tea.
How to stay connected at the Sivananda Ashram
Although the usage of mobile phones is normally not allowed at the ashram if you are discrete you can use a smartphone to connect to the internet whenever you need to. The internet connection at the ashram was not that good and you can only use it during specific hours but if you get a mobile internet plan for your smartphone then you can use it whenever you want and with a better connection, but be aware that the ashram won't take any responsibility if your phone is broken or stolen. You can find more information here:
- How to stay connected with mobile internet while traveling in India
- The iPhone 4: Best Travel Gadget Ever
The talent show: Just like in the TTC this is a tradition at the Sivananda Ashram. The students are given the opportunity to demonstrate or perform any talent on Saturdays during the evening satsanga. It is a really fun and entertaining event. I think the most exciting moments of the training are tea time, lunch, dinner and "The Talent Show" :-)
Sivananda Ashram Talent Show Video
Every Friday, when there is enough people, the ashram organizes a tour either to visit the temples near the Madurai city center or other places of relevance.
About the food
Hmmmm, the best food ever! It was just excellent, much better than the ashram in Neyyar Dam
How to get to the Sivananda Ashram in Madurai
The Sivananda Ashram is located about 30km from the Madurai city center and it takes like 25 minutes in a rickshaw for 300 Indian rupees. You only need to mention "Sivananda Ashram" to the driver and he will know where to go.
If you want to save some money you can also take a bus from the Periyar Bus Stand. The bus number are 62A, 23P, 23T, 23U and 23Z. Tell the driver "Sivananda Ashram" and if he doesn't know it just say "Pavana Vinakul Junction" so he knows where to stop. The ride is about 45 minutes by bus.
Sivananda Yoga Vedanta
Kalluthu, Saramthangi Village,
Vellayampatti PO 625 503
Tamil Nadu, India.
Telephone: 0452 2912950 Mobile: 09442190661
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